Journal of Neurotrauma
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Chronic spinal cord injury (SCI) causes major disruption of ejaculatory function in men. Ejaculation is a reflex and the spinal generator for ejaculatory reflexes in the rat has been located in the lumbosacral spinal cord. The effects of SCI on the rat spinal ejaculation generator and ejaculatory reflexes remain understudied. The first goal of the current study was to establish the effects of chronic SCI on the function of the spinal ejaculation generator. Male rats received a contusion injury of the spinal cord at spinal level T6-T7. Ejaculatory reflexes elicited by electrical stimulation of the dorsal penile nerve (DPN) were evaluated in injured and control rats at 4-6 weeks following SCI. SCI males demonstrated significant reductions in bursting of the bulbocavernosus muscle (BCM), an indicator for expulsion phase of ejaculation, and in seminal vesicle pressure (SVP) increases, an indicator for the emission phase of ejaculation, following DPN stimulation. Thus, contusion SCI resulted in long-term impairment of ejaculatory reflexes. The D3 agonist 7-hydroxy-2-(di-N-propylamino) tetralin (7OHDPAT) facilitates ejaculation in spinal cord intact rats, thus the second goal of the current study was to test whether subcutaneous infusions of 7OHDPAT can facilitate ejaculatory reflexes in rats with chronic SCI. Male rats received a contusion injury at T6-T7 and effects of systemic administration of 7OHDPAT (1 mg/kg) were tested 4-5 weeks following injury. Results showed that 7OHDPAT administration facilitated ejaculatory reflexes in SCI males with or without DPN stimulation, provided that supraspinal inputs to the lumbar cord were severed by transection just prior to evaluating the reflex. Thus, 7OHDPAT administration in SCI males was able to overcome the detrimental effects of SCI on ejaculatory reflexes.